An outdoor paradise for the avid adventurer, wild and wonderful West Virginia has an unmatched beauty that is downright otherworldly. The rolling Appalachian Mountains that wind their way through the area have earned it the title of The Mountain State. Wander through the various national and state parks throughout the state and you’ll find there are countless gorgeous hikes, scenic overlooks, and wildlife to enjoy. There’s something for everyone of all skill levels to enjoy. Whether it be whitewater rafting, skiing, mountain biking, fly fishing, or taking a rock climbing course to get in touch with your more adventurous side.
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Whatever corner of this historically rich state, you’re sure to catch a glimpse of “Almost Heaven” as you explore its countless natural wonders. Here are Tripio’s top 15 places to travel to in West Virginia for an outdoors lover.
You’ve likely seen a familiar scene from this area before, whether it was on a postcard or when researching your West Virginia trip. Located 20 miles south of the New River Gorge Bridge, Babcock State Park has 4,127 acres of beauty. Come here in the fall to catch a stunning array of foliage as you mountain bike, hike the trails, or go fishing.
The scenic Glade Creek Grist Mill can be found here, which is a complete replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that was there previously. The mill is said to be one of the most photographed places in the state and is a popular destination for artists to travel to so they can capture the idyllic scenery. If you love national and state parks, make sure to add this one to your custom top 10 to experience it fully.
Thomas Jefferson once stood at this location on the Appalachian Trail. He marveled at the mountainous views below, recording, “This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic”. You won’t be able to stand on the same rock that he once did. However, you can make the short hike up to the same spot looking over the converging Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. The brief hike may be a bit steep, but it is certainly one worth doing on your West Virginia vacation.
Along with Babcock State Park, this is also one of the most photographed areas in West Virginia. With 20 miles of hiking trails to enjoy, cascading waterfalls like Blackwater Falls, Elakala Falls, and several scenic overlooks to marvel at. This is a magical place that should definitely make it on your custom itinerary.
The state park is nestled in the Alleghany Mountains. It features one of the longest sled runs on the east coast to try in the winter. Stay at one of the park’s cabins if you want to turn your visit into an extended stay. This stunning area is a prime example of why they call West Virginia “Almost Heaven”.
This gorgeous cascading waterfall requires no hiking whatsoever to see! As you’re driving along Route 60 to New River Gorge, you’ll start to notice smaller waterfalls before you arrive at the larger Cathedral Falls. Pull off in the designated area and you can just stroll right up to the scenic falls easily. For a roadside waterfall, it sure is a sight to behold.
With more than 25 miles of trails for outdoor enthusiasts to bike or hike through, Kanawha Forest is a beautiful sanctuary to retreat into nature. Especially in the fall, the park becomes a colorful place to wander due to the changing foliage in the forest canopy. Grab the topographical map to follow the paths that suits your skill level best. Licensed hunters are permitted in certain areas in the fall, so be aware of that during your visit.
This is one of the best hikes in West Virginia that should definitely make it to your custom top 10 list! Featuring an amazing aerial view of historic Harpers Ferry and the point where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers converge. At the top, you’ll get to see views of Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia all from one lookout point. You’ll encounter a lot of other hikers and runners on this moderate hike due to its popularity, so it can get a bit crowded on weekend afternoons.
Maryland Heights will start you off on the green blaze trail, and will soon branch into the blue and red blazes. Follow the red blazes by keeping right at the split for the short version of this hike that follows the Overlook Cliff Trail, which will take you right to the lookout point. Following the blue blazes is a very steep approach that takes you along Stone Fort Trail to see the ruins of Civil War forts. This longer trek is hard instead of moderate in terms of steepness and takes around three and a half hours to complete.
Be sure to look on the Tripio app for other historic attractions to see while you’re visiting Harpers Ferry National Park.
This out-of-the-way nature preserve is a hidden gem that any outdoor lover is sure to enjoy. There are five trails that wind through the area, all of which are under two miles long and easy to navigate. One of the best features to explore is a 1,500-foot boardwalk that lets visitors safely view the wettest parts of the swamp.
This cool climate area tucked in a valley is home to over 100 species of birds as well as other natural wildlife to spot. Along the trails you’ll find educational signs and points of interest that will make this both a fascinating and enriching experience.
Check out their website to access the audio tour during your visit.
Summersville Lake is a must if you’re in need of a mini paradise to relax for your summer vacation or go out on the lake for a bit of adventure. This is West Virginia’s largest body of water that is known for being beautifully crystal clear, so it’s become a popular spot for scuba diving. Take your friends out on a boat for the day, go kayaking, swimming, or any water-based activity you can think of. There are great trails like Pirate’s Cove, which you can find on the Tripio app, that offers thrill-seekers a great spot for cliff jumping. There are a few scenic overlooks to check out via various hikes in the area, and you can wander around other points of interest like the nearby dam and lighthouse.
If you want to make sure your itinerary takes you to “Almost Heaven”, you’ll find it here. Coopers Rock State Forest has 50 miles of hiking and biking trails through Appalachia. Enjoy scenic overlooks galore which makes this a popular spot for rock climbing and bouldering. The lush green forests are bright with colors in autumn, and it’s a perfect place to visit if you’re exploring Morgantown just 13 miles away. Go fishing in the nearby lake or rafting in the river surrounded by nature.
If you want to make it to West Virginia’s highest point, you have a couple options. For the passionate outdoors-lover, take Huckleberry Trail to reach the full 4,683-foot summit. There is wild huckleberry growing along the trail that will lead you to a few breathtaking scenic overlooks of the sprawling Allegheny Mountains. This trail generally takes around 4 hours and 40 minutes to complete. The best time to go is May through October. Learn exactly how to follow the trail on the Tripio app.
Not a hiker? No worries. There is a paved road you can drive up to travel to Spruce Knob before taking the easy, half-mile Whispering Spruce Trail leading to the observation tower. The trail has a few informational signs to learn about the area as you go.
The New River Gorge Bridge is the third-highest bridge in the US, and you can walk right under the whole length of it! This is one of the most iconic sights in the state with many unique surrounding vantage points and activities that will let you see it in all its glory, so be sure you add it to your custom itinerary in the Tripio app! Before beginning, you’ll be securely fastened to a safety cable on the catwalk that sits 25 feet under the bridge.
This historic bridge towers 876 feet above the New River, and you’ll be walking its length of 3,030 feet for about 2-3 hours. You’ll be walking so close to the sky, it will certainly feel like you’re almost to heaven. Your guide will tell you all about the bridge’s history on your adventure. This is a once in a lifetime experience that’s as bucket list-worthy as they come and is absolutely worthy of being a part of your top 10 places to see in West Virginia.
Harpers Ferry is home to the halfway point of the famous 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. This is where you can stop by the trail’s visitor center to see the informational exhibits and 10-foot map of the entire trail. The expansive and beautiful trail passes through 14 states and has secured its spot on many adventurous backpacker’s bucket list as well. In fact, it’s often on a US backpacker’s top 10 list of thru-hikes to experience in their lifetime. Four miles of the trail are located in West Virginia, which is an easy hike from Harpers Ferry National Park to the visitor’s center.
This is a lovely scenic area to bask in nature at the peaceful Sandstone Falls. Once you reach the parking lot, you’ll take a brief walk along the boardwalk guiding you to the falls. If you’d like to stay a little longer, you can take the easy, mile-long Island Loop Trail that takes about 20 minutes to complete.
Have you ever wanted to board a historic steam engine locomotive? In West Virginia you can! The vintage train pulls you up the mountains to Bald Knob on a 4-hour trip (22 miles roundtrip). You’ll encounter switchbacks and overlooks along the way. Be sure to bring ear plugs as protection against the loud horn. This definitely turns the experience into an authentic step into the past. This is one of visitors’ favorite things to do while on vacation in West Virginia, so you won’t want to miss this experience!
Instructing spirited climbers since 1971, the Seneca Rocks Climbing School is your first step to learning great climbing skills. This is what you need to start adding a bit more adventure into your future travel itinerary! They offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses of different kinds as well as instruction on self-rescue techniques and essential knots. If you’ve got big climbing dreams, start here and you’ll be able to reach them one day. This is one of the state’s best-known landmarks that also happens to be a perfect spot for stargazing because of how little light pollution reaches it.
Love history? Check out our blog on History Lovers: A Guide To West Virginia
-Rachael Grow, Tripio Guru